Thursday 25 August 2016 10:19 am

A Brexit brick shortage is threatening to make the UK's housing crisis worse

If the housing crisis keeps you awake at night, start worrying about this: even if builders went on a housebuilding frenzy today, the UK would need 1.4 billion bricks – which it doesn't have. And that's without the effects of EU referendum…

Figures published by the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and Cebr today showed the average new home in 2016 is made up of 5,180 bricks (NB. that's 228 fewer bricks than 10 years ago). Given the UK needs 264,000 new homes, that's 1.4 billion bricks required by the construction industry.

But the sector is already struggling with a shortage of bricks – the study showed two-thirds of small and medium-sized builders were stuck with a two-month wait for new brick orders last year, with almost a quarter waiting for up to four months and 16 per cent waiting between six and eight months. (And that's without the much-maligned skills shortage – a study in May showed such was the demand for bricklayers, they were earning up to £1,000 a week).

And because in 2015, 85 per cent of all imported clay and cement came form the EU, the NAEA suggested the EU referendum could have a "considerable impact" on supply. Ouch.

The figures also showed the size of UK homes has shrunk considerably – in the 1920s, the average home was 153 sq m (1,647 sq ft). In 2016, it's 46 per cent smaller, at 83 sq m. 

“We all know that the massive lack of supply in housing is an issue that needs resolving urgently," pointed out Mark Hayward, the NAEA's managing director. 

"As well as freeing up more land to ensure we can build the right sort of houses in the right places, it’s crucial we have the right materials and skills to do so.

"It seems a simple consideration but the fact that we don’t have enough bricks to meet demand has a very real effect and holds up the process from beginning to end. We’re concerned that the impact of the EU Referendum means this problem could get worse as we rely on the import of brick components from the EU and of course many of our skilled labourers come from there too.”

— UPDATE 5.20pm

The Brick Development Association has taken issue with the NAEA's findings – read more here

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